Two of my friends independently used the phrase “one day at a time” to me over the past two weeks, once to help me cope with some of the difficulties I’ve faced and another to describe her mother’s fight with cancer. Some perspective there, but the phrase has stuck with me.
I’ve already detailed the difficulties of living in a small town in Germany, and since I last wrote, I’ve encountered more. So what does it mean to me to take it one day at a time? I’ll explore this with a one-two punch of also detailing all of the fun stuff I’ve been up to lately!
One day at a time is feeling sick and skipping out on the Abendmarkt to treat myself with a 6-hour binge of Stranger Things (watch it) and a home cooked “Gesund Essen” (healthy meal) of my favorite veggie (Blumenkuhl, or cauliflower — my host family remembered) in the most amazing broth by my wonderful, vegetarian host family.
One day at a time is not being able to sleep more than three hours for a couple days in a row but waking up early anyways and taking a beautiful trip with my friends to Europe’s fairytale castle, Schloss Neuschwanstein.
One day at a time is being exhausted with German learning for hours on end only to make random German friends in a bar and to speak to them all in German, even when they respond in English: “Wow, you’ve really just been taking for one year? It’s so funny how you respond in German even when we are speaking English!”
One day at a time is dealing with a homophobic incident at a nightclub (which maybe I’ll write about later, I dunno) and waking up Sunday and grabbing breakfast with friends. It’s saying, “I’m going to take the next bus home” three different times that day because sitting on a dock on the Bodensee was calling, and later a Biergarten.
One day at a time is feeling down for no reason, and instead of going home, going to the lake for a birthday with my friends like I planned, renting paddle boats with slides on them (best invention ever!) and having a relay race down the slides until we couldn’t stop laughing and were totally out of breath.
One day at a time is having a train cancelled at 8 pm, the next coming at 9 and arriving 5 minutes after my bus at 9:25 and having to take the last bus at 10:25. It’s instead of being fed up with small-town transportation, having two of my friends pretend to play Super Smash Brothers with my hands as the characters at the trainstation and grabbing a Hefe at the Bahnhof bar with them for the extra hour I had to wait for the bus.
One day at a time is also having a series of perfect days – like my trip to Stuttgart – drinking wine and beer all day in the Schlossplatz and tearing up the dance floor at the tiniest gay club where no one else was dancing. It’s realizing the next day that my friend and I downed two bottles of wine, 5 liters of beer, two mixed drinks and two glasses of wine in one day, and heading to the park, hungover, anyways (with all of our stuff) to climb the tower and take a look out at the city from above. By the way, a hangover in German is a “Kater,” which also means tomcat. It’s trying to eat at the same Vietnamese restaurant three times unsuccessfully and laughing about it and finding another. It’s sitting around with the whole day ahead of us and realizing the day was best spent strolling around and drinking and sitting in beautiful places.
One day at a time is skyping my niece who can barely talk and crying a little when she says, “I love you Brennan.” And it’s watching her laugh at me speaking German and me laughing at her trying to say “Nighty, night, don’t let the bedbugs bite” by saying, “Night, night. Don’t let the bugs bite you!” — which is so resonant living in mosquitovile! It’s having to keep in perspective that I won’t see her until she’s a whole year older and different but knowing that I’ll be an even better uncle for it.
One day at a time is taking a zoomed out look at what’s going on, how small the problems I faced that day are, and restarting the new day – or even the new hour – with them off my shoulders. It’s also not trying to put every little moment into a greater context, not placing the anxieties of an entire year abroad on a bad moment or day. Challenging moments come and go, and it’s easier to look at them like that when I take them one day at a time. And despite this, I don’t think taking it one day at a time is mutually exclusive from taking the happy moments and letting them define my experience here and acknowledging that the challenges also define my personal growth. It’s one day at a time, but it’s still a journey.